THE THOUGHT-PROVOKING QUOTE
Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something .
By Henry Thoreau.
A 87-year old doctor ( a paediatrician) resides in a small town, with a population of a little more than a million, in the state of Rajasthan, India. He has worked his way up through struggle – paying for medical school with scholarships, looking after a large joint family, but finally gaining some professional and social recognition.
He is known as the “Christ for Children” (Masiha) in that small town. Desperate parents flock to him in a last attempt to save their dying child, in the hope of a miracle at his hands. And some of them do happen. His medical practice has just been a part of social work that he believed in. Free treatment to those who cannot afford it, handing over cash from his drawer to a needy patient to buy fruits and milk for the child, is normal day-to-day functioning for him.
He had a reputation of examining 10 patients in a row in a large hall, and then writing 10 prescriptions, without a single error ever. It was presumably done to accommodate more patients in the limited working hours. Most of the times, he reached home after his own children were tucked in bed, and perhaps, just kissed the sleeping angels goodnight, before calling it a day.
- I used my marketing brain to ask him once, why his clinic was open during the day, since working parents were busy in those hours. The answer was “There are many other doctors for those who can pay more. I work for the people who travel by bus from nearby villages, and need to get back home before the night sets in”.
Was that poor targeting and market segmentation ?
- I used my business brain to ask him, why he does not charge a referral fee from the pathological clinic, all his patients were being referred to, for several years. The answer was “I refuse to recommend 5 tests, when only 3 are needed, and that is what a referral fee is meant for”. I tried telling him that whatever he was foregoing was not passed on to the patient, but added to somebody else’s profits. He couldn’t care less.
Was that a lack of financial acumen ?
- I sought his help for a business appointment with a state minister, whom he had known for 40 years, and the answer was “ I have always given, never sought favors from the powerful, hence, I am respected”.
Was that poor networking ?
- The doctors who have worked with him, eulogize him as a medical genius, who has resolved the most difficult cases. He has been called a student, who learns from his work, every day of his life. But he has never published an article in any medical journal, and is not internet savvy. He made no attempt to migrate to the bigger cities, for more money or recognition.
Was that low ambition or poor marketing ?
- He swam across a river to see a tiny patient struggling for life. I have not been able to figure out, how was that done with the medical practitioners’ bag, and did he have time to dry himself after the swim ?
Was that over-enthusiasm, or selling himself short ?
- He was blindfolded by dacoits, and taken to their hiding places to treat an injured team member. He refused to succumb to pressure from the police to divulge information, as the injured man for him, was only a patient in need of treatment.
Was that legal or moral ?
- An accident victim was brought to the hospital where he was working, and there was no orthopedic surgeon available to attend. He (a pediatrician) had the genius and the gumption, to perform the emergency surgery (with consent from the patient and his family), which was later certified by an orthopedic as “perfect”. It will be termed a punishable offence as per present-day laws, (this happened decades ago) but at that moment, a life and precious limbs were saved.
Was it ethical to go beyond his qualifications ?
I do not have answers to the questions raised, as the man is perhaps an anachronism. He is not a billionaire. His recognition has remained limited to the town he belongs, and his social and professional circles. He appears to have no regrets. Given his deteriorating health at the age of 86, he continues to see 10 patients in a day (a poor number compared to past records of 100+).
The doctor mentioned above was awarded an “All Time Achievement Award” by the Indian Medical Association, and happens to be my father-in-law, Dr. Mahendra Rai Saxena.